The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Off colour

Photo: Cloudy Sky

Photo: Cloudy Sky

“Why don’t you spend the day in bed if you’re feeling off colour? The Min Pins would love it. I’ll bring you a hottie and breakfast in bed in half an hour.”

These past few days I’ve been feeling really odd. Light headed and detached. Not wanting to go to work and longing to stay under the capacious duvet.
“I was planning to get out into the garden.”
“But it’s pouring with rain!”
So I finished the fascinating book I’ve been reading this week. What The Animals Tell Me by Sonya Fitzpatrick. She’s a real life Doctor Doolittle, born in England and living in America.

When I read the last page and closed the book, sunshine suddenly burst through the window. So I dressed quickly as sped down to the garden.

I’ve been digging the bindweed from the fruit cage borders beside the chicken run. Just 45 minutes when I return early enough from work. Now that the clocks have changed to British Summer TimeI can spend an extra hour in the garden. I finished digging over the fruit cages, planted two rows of shallots in the kitchen garden and as I started to tackle the main herbaceous border, I was entertained by the sonorous carousel of the annual frog bacchanal. I finally came into the warm kitchen when it was too dark to see a weed. Feeling clear headed and far more positive.

Gardening is a truly therapeutic activity. Particularly when you are growing your own food and flowers. I read a book three years ago written by a man who was suffering from depression and started to tend an allotment with his friend. The book is good. You see the man’s life gradually opening like a flower. Yet this  is a gritty belt and braces book,  describing the challenge of taking on an allotment with little gardening experience. Allotted Time by Robin Shelton  literally inspires  me every time that I want to retire to under a warm duvet and withdraw from the world.

If you would like to win my copy of this book, leave a comment on this post.  You could be the owner of a hardback book that I found inspirational and that has really helped me tackle my blacker moments.

  Leave a reply


  1. I hope you feel better soon, Fiona. Allotted Time is a wonderful book, isn’t it? Like many others i’ve been feeling really down the last week or so, and since my depression is cyclical in nature, the thing that works for me is to be aware of when i start to slip “down”, and then work like mad to defeat it. I headed out into the garden yesterday afternoon even though i didn’t really want to, and set about lifting the wooden sides to one of my beds, the first one i built (and the crappiest one!). The wood had rotted away in some cases, so i had to build replacements, but it looks so much better now. I sat on my Gardener’s Stool afterwards, having a cup of cinnamon tea, surveying my realm (doesn’t every gardener have a Gardener’s Stool or Bench or Chair or something?) and i felt a deep sense of satisfaction, not just that i’d gotten the bed done, or that i’d worked physically hard, but also that i didn’t let the blue feeling swallow me up and stop me from doing things.

    I’m glad you felt better when you came in. I think gardening should be prescribed by doctors, its such a miracle worker. Its not just getting out into the fresh air. Its working with the soil, as well, i’m sure. Not just deeply satisfying and rewarding but fills some part of the soul, of the psyche.


  2. I’m glad we’re now on Summertime! Hopefully it will bring some sunshine into everyone!
    I can’t bear to watch the news at the moment.
    I too start today on the borders, main task is to pull out all the old raggy stuff & plant my sweet peas, so they start climbing up the fence, that always puts me in a good mood :0)
    p.s. hope this comment finds you well.

  3. Belinda

    Fiona, I know what you mean. I awoke on Sunday with a headcold, but it cant keep me out of the garden, even with it raining since last night I keep popping out there to fiddle. Im clearing & harvesting the last of summers bounty & laying sugar cane mulch.

    I wish I could make my partner Mathew read that book. He is not a reader, but is a depressive. He loves that I garden & that we now have chicken, but he thinks of it as strictly my thing, not his. I could wish he would help out but also that he could know how good it is for us physically 7 mentally.

  4. Not heard of the book, but I know the garden is my therapy, and brings me back safe from the jaws of the black dog, time and time again.
    Monty Don suffers badly, too.
    Who can stay depressed, when a seed shoots forth perfect, furled leaves ….

  5. Toffeeapple

    Thirty-odd years ago I used to suffer bouts of truly deep depression related, I think, to childbirth (never proven), but when I started to get into the garden in any weather my mood used to change for the better so rapidly that I laughed in the face of the doctor and told him to put his drugs where the sun wouldn’t shine. Since that day I have never needed those drugs. Nowadays, my greatest pleasure (and the secret delight of my neighbours) is to get into the earth, wearing the oddest clothes I can find.

    Be well my dear Fiona and smile all the while.

  6. Rebecca

    Hope you are feeling better Fiona!

    I live in a flat so don’t have any land to grow anything but my dad does back home in Norfolk. Whenever I go up to visit my parents me and dad always walk around his lines of veg and I always see what I can plunder from him. He always had something on the go and thankfully hasn’t had too many disasters!

    My mum calls his patch his mid life crises, dad calls it rest from her!!

  7. Sorry to hear you have been feeling down. Curiously since I discovered your blog every time I google a recipe you are top of the results list. I could almost think you were plotting for world domination and I wouldn’t complain if you were.

    I became a student (again) in January and my shared allotment patch won’t know what’s hit it next week when my two week easter holiday starts. It’s a good job my partner in crime has been giving it some attention otherwise it would be completely barren this year.

  8. Sorry to hear you are not feeling on top of the world Fiona and hope that it is nothing that a lie in and a good dig in the garden with the sun shining can’t cure. I’m planning to grow lettuce on my kitchen window sill as it looks as if it will be another few years before I get an allotment. I’m no higher up the list than this time last year. I keep hearing that allotments are being reallocated but the list is no shorter. How can that be?

  9. I live in Greece and have a small roof garden only. Today I moved the geraniams up trying to make my view tolerable! Everyone thinks Greece so lovely, but not every view is to be cherished! It is amazing what one can do in pots or containers. Last year I planted a lemon tree in said pot and harvested 14 lovely, aromatic lemons. I can hardly wait to see what I get this year.
    I have followed your blog for about a year—am facinated by all of it. Keep up the good work—and happy gardening.

  10. Natasha

    Mmmmmm snuggles…I really needed some snuggles today, instead I got an emergency trip to the dentist!!

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